Michael Bunting in his book The Mindful Leader wrote,”The equation is simple: Highly engaged organisations are more profitable and effective. The key to improving your organisation’s engagement is your leadership behaviour. And mindfulness—the practical application of self-awareness—is the most effective method for recognising and improving your behaviour.”
This practical application of self-awareness is what EAP—the Enhances Awareness Program—is all about. In fact, a good definition of western mindfulness could be: the practical application of self-awareness. At EAP, we understand mindfulness and awareness so well, that we have a five-step protocol for developing and maintaining practical self-awareness, that we call CHASM. It’s an acronym:
C — Current Reality (How am I really experiencing life right now?)
H — Self-Honouring (What do I believe about my worth that sells me short?)
A — Alternative Reality (If I was more self-honouring, what would I want my life to look like?)
S — Strategies (What will it take to live a life that I love?)
M — Mindfulness (Remembering to recall the more self-honouring options!)
Mindfulness is more than meditation. From a western mindfulness perspective, meditation is to mindfulness what going to the gym is to wellness. It’s a part of a more holistic approach. The western approach of enhanced awareness, that has you remember a more self-loving approach to engaging life (in other words, being mindful), is the key for transforming leadership behaviour. All behaviour arises from what we value, whether it’s habitual or consciously selected. Another way of saying that is, what we value determines how we personally spend our resources. In fact, if you want to know what you really value, look at how you spend your time and money (irrespective of how much you have) and why you are spending it that way, and then you will know what you value.
Of course, something influences what it is that you value. And that is what you want for yourself at your deepest sense of yourself. In almost all cases, what we want is either motivated by what we fear, or by what we love. Our fear is the evidence of poor self-worth. Our love (compassion) is the extension of a rich sense of one’s worth. The key to changing any behaviour, and in this context leadership behaviour, is found in what the cause is of our perception of poor self-worth.
My forty years as a health professional helped me to understand that there were essentially two approaches to ‘treating’ disease.There was a ‘symptom’ based approach which was necessary to relieve the pain, and there was a ‘cause’ based approach that made sure the symptoms didn’t reappear. At EAP we take a causal approach. In essence we perceive that we all have a personal narrative that arose from our formative years (well established by the age of seven) that is centred around a personally held belief of poor self-worth. Not conscious of this, we engage life from this fearful perspective, in many cases, right up to the day we die. It’s this narrative that causes our suffering. It is the obstacle that is our handicap to being an effective leader.
A unique aspect of the EAP approach to transforming leadership behaviour, is how we resolve the seven-year-old’s narrative. In my years of studying and applying Gerry Jampolsky’s Attitudinal Healing, I was made aware of a forgiveness concept called ‘selective remembering’. It was the idea that forgiveness could be found, by seeing what had occurred that caused offence, differently. In applying this idea to the narrative, it was possible to turn what seemed to be a handicap, into a gift. In the case of the narrative it was about finding those behaviours that I became ‘skilled’ in, that made it possible to avoid what it was that I feared most about my poor self-worth.
In my personal case, my fear of being a cypher, and thus my belief that I wasn’t noticed, lead me to developing a whole range of behaviours, abilities and skills that made sure I was noticed. Once I realised what I had become skilled at, I saw that those skills could be delivered from a compassionate place and not a fearful one. Instead of being defined by the limitations of my story, I was now free to identify my purpose and see how these skills and abilities could be used to serve humanity, from a place where I held a clear sense of my worth. That’s the moment that my leadership behaviour changed.
When we are free of our narrative, only then can we be truly mindful. Being free of our narrative means we have the ability to clearly identify a personal vision. That is in effect a mindful vision. When that vision emerges from sustainable values and ideals that are shared by others in a workplace, then they all get on board. As Micheal Bunting says, ‘A mindful vision leaves the world a kinder, more wholesome, safer, better place. It treats suppliers, team members, the community and clients with love and does not objectify them as prawns. In short, it gives people exactly what they want from their workplace but rarely felt safe to assert.”
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